Community Spotlight: Toys for Tots

Milford community donates


The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: John Krusinski stands in front of the donations he’s collected for Toys for Tots this holiday. Photo courtesy Krusinski family.

Olivia Salai and Cameron Lefebvre

     During the holidays, local businesses and houses place oversized red mailboxes outside of their buildings to help Toys for Tots, an organization run by the Marine Corps. Community members donate toys throughout the colder months and are comforted knowing the toys will stay local and help kids in their area.

     Local businesses put out the signature collection boxes beginning in October and collect toys until mid-December. Residents drop off new, unwrapped toys in the mailboxes. Coordinators of the program bring the toys to a warehouse, where they are sorted by gender and age. When Christmas finally arrives, the coordinators work alongside local community agencies to distribute the toys to kids in need.

     In Milford, the program is run by the Fire Department. Toys can be dropped off at the Fire Department and anywhere you see the Big Red Mailboxes.

     Jason Stacoffe, a fireman from the Milford Fire Department, shares his passion for the Toys for Tots program. 

     Stacroffe says, “I have always enjoyed giving back and helping those in need, and when I joined the Milford Fire Department, this program became the perfect opportunity to do that. We get the chance to help those in need during a  time when it’s supposed to be the happiest time of year.”

     Stacroffe explains his experience with Christmas as a child and how even though his family was not “well off”, this time of year was always special. Now as a father, he can’t imagine being unable to provide gifts on Christmas. Toys for Tots does exactly that, provides gifts to children on Christmas and brings so many people holiday cheer.

     John Krusinski, who graduated from Foran in 2009, says the organization holds a big place in his heart because of his passion for helping others. 

     “I know there’s children out there who wake up to very different Christmas mornings than other kids,” Krusinski says, “and I just want to make sure as many kids as possible have a smile on Christmas morning.” 

     Krusinski explains how his childhood love of toys and the possibility of “brighten[ing] a few kids’ days when they walk out to their tree on Christmas morning” motivated him to become a drop off location. Krusinski and many others have volunteered their homes as drop off sites, similar to the Fire Department.

     Despite the unusual holiday season, Krusinski has still managed to collect enough toys to fill five large white boxes in addition to two tables and over $4,000 worth of monetary donations. He also received 16 bikes. Krusinski drives up to Wallingford in a trailer with friends to deliver. His mom notes how proud she is of him. 

     In addition to Krusinski, Milford citizen who is part of the Marine Corps detachment Ray Cruciani,  volunteered to collect for Toys for Tots. As a former marine, he wanted to help, and teamed up with Foran grad Laura Nelson. His goal was initially to collect 12 toys from family and friends but their collection far exceeded that.

     The kindness from Milford was “overwhelming.” Cruciani’s wife and East Shore Middle School teacher, Julie Cruciani says, “…. the generosity from Milford and people out of state is unbelievable. Helping kids is what it’s all about.” 

     Army Veteran Mark Guner, “really loved the idea of the military aspect of Toys for Tots.” While the main goal of the military is to protect our country, members also value supporting their communities. 

     Guner says, “It’s really an obligation, a commitment we’ve made to uphold the highest standards, to lead by example, and give back to our fellow Americans.”

     Normally, the Guners would hold a holiday party where guests donate toys to the collection, but to abide by the Covid-19 regulations, they’re collecting from their friends and family individually this year.

     Please consider dropping off new toys in a “Big Red Mailbox” around town, or you can even donate online! Visit for more information.